The original version of this obituary was written by James T. Keane for America Media‘s website. The below version has been edited for length and to include more information about Fr. Christiansen’s time as a Jesuit before joining America.
April 7, 2022 – Fr. Andrew Christiansen, SJ, was born on Feb. 20, 1945, to Mary (née Coccese) and Andrew Christiansen. He entered the Society of Jesus on July 30, 1962, and professed his first vows on July 31, 1964. Fr. Christiansen received his undergraduate degree from Fordham University in 1968. He went on to receive an M.Div. (1970) and S.T.M. (1973) from Woodstock Theological College. In 1973, he began his postgraduate religious studies at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Here he received his M.A. in 1975, M. Phil in 1977 and doctorate in 1982.
He was ordained a priest in 1972 at Fordham University, completed his tertianship from 1984 to 1985, and took final vows in the Society of Jesus in 1986.
Fr. Christiansen (Drew to his friends) served as the director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace, and also taught social ethics and peace studies at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and the University of Notre Dame, where he was a founding staff member of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He authored hundreds of articles and was published in more than a dozen foreign journals, and co-authored or edited a number of books on peacemaking and ethics.
In 2002, he first came to America magazine as a writer and associate editor. He would go on to become editor-in-chief in 2005,a position he would hold for seven years.
“Drew Christiansen was a devoted Jesuit priest and a true friend of America. I know I would not be the editor of America today without his guidance, his encouragement and his endorsement,” said Fr. Matthew Malone, SJ, president and editor in chief of America Media. “And it’s also true that there would not be an America today but for Drew and his leadership…He steadied the ship and safely sailed her through the stormy seas of the next seven years. He was a kind and generous man and a friend to all he met.”
Fr. Christiansen most recently served as a Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Human Development in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and a senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. His areas of research in those positions included nuclear policy, just war and just peacemaking and Catholic social teaching. He was a frequent consultant to the Holy See and a member of the steering committee of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network. He also served on the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Task Force and on the Holy See delegation that participated in the negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons during the summer of 2017. He was also a Canon of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
Fr. Christiansen was remembered by his former colleagues at America as a kind, caring and thoughtful leader, as well as a powerful intellect with a great gift for communication.
“I was always impressed by Drew’s ability to write succinctly, and with great insight, on very complicated subjects,” America deputy editor in chief Tim Reidy noted. “He had a rare combination of gifts, yet he was also humble and kind. Some of my fondest memories of him are discussing his favorite hikes in the Catskills or his love for cross country skiing near his family’s home in New England. He was a deeply prayerful man who found God in many, many things.”
“Drew was very supportive of his staff, always encouraging us to pursue our own areas of interest in our writings. He was also a very thoughtful person,” wrote America executive editor Kerry Weber. “One of my fondest memories of him was when he, along with Ray Schroth, SJ, and Robert Collins, SJ, took the time to trek from Manhattan to Brooklyn to attend the ceremony at which I was inducted as a Mercy Associate. He brought a chocolate cake and sat happily chatting to many Sisters of Mercy and Associates.”
“Drew was the epitome of the gentleman scholar, an unassuming, self-effacing public intellectual during a time when the prominence and influence of that role has been squandered to petty squabbling and vanity,” said America senior editor Kevin Clarke. “He was also deeply wise and kind, passionate about peacemaking and the intellectual work of justice-seeking.”
“The thing that always impressed me about Drew is that he could write about such a wide range of issues with depth and also speed,” said America associate editor Fr. Jim McDermott, SJ. “There are so many topics on which you’d think, ‘Who could write in a meaningful and accessible way about this incredibly complex issue?’ and the first answer would be Drew.”
Fr. Christiansen, the 13th editor in chief of America and a noted scholar of ethics, peacemaking, and public policy, died on April 6, in Washington, D.C. He was 77 years old.